I originally wrote this a few months after meeting Samer and some of his friends. I probably could add so much more now.
From Susanne — April 2008

In my version of how we met, I mentioned how different Samer was compared to what I expected a Middle Eastern Muslim to be. My own incorrect thinking of Arabs had us much more at odds than I have found to be true. Amazingly, Samer comes across normal and human and a host of characteristics that I find appealing in anyone! Is there any wonder I wanted him as a true friend and not just an internet acquaintance? Which of us do not desire friends who are understanding, caring, patient, kind and compassionate? There are many traits in Samer that I wish were stronger in my own life!

Samer has taught me not only about himself, but about an area of the world of which I really knew very little. Here are a few lessons I have learned about Arabs in the six months I have known Samer.

1. They want to be fairly represented.
We can all agree that there are extremists in the world who have given us bad thoughts towards most religions, races, countries and so forth. Extremists generally make the headlines because people love sensational stories. The ordinary people rarely get media coverage because a man going to work, loving his wife and teaching his children about the Lord aren’t exciting enough for us. My point … all Arabs and all Muslims are not terrorists. Though we Americans tend to see news mostly about them as intolerant and hateful, Samer has convinced me these extremists are not representative of most Arabs and Muslims. I have heard from him a number of times how it really makes them sad that people think bad of them based on the unfair representation in our media. Actually Samer’s words go along the lines of “it breaks our hearts that such lovely and kind people think badly of us.” I still can’t get over how he considers us “lovely and kind people” when America has caused so many problems in the Middle East, but, thankfully, that is another thing I’ve learned. Samer separates American people from the American government, and while he hates our country’s policies in the Middle East, he does not transfer that hate to the American people. I sometimes have a hard time understanding that difference, but it’s because I think like an American.

2. They want to be understood.
Samer doesn’t mind that I can’t always side with him on all issues. (As if that happens even in my own country … or my own family at times.) He only asks that I try to understand his perspectives on things. And he stresses that he has reasons for what he believes. He doesn’t believe something just for the sake of being contrary or difficult or anti-West. From Israeli and American occupation to support or at least favorable thoughts towards pro-Palestinian groups, I understand the Arab perspective so much better! I’m not saying I am now pro-Hamas, anti-American or anything of the sort, but I DO understand the appeal certain parties have for many Arabs and the reasons they don’t like American policy in the Middle East. Instead of only hearing these stories in the media and shaping my views from their reports, it is wonderful learning from an ordinary person who can share the truth as he sees it.

3. They want us to care and value them as people.

How often can we as Americans honestly say we have been touched or heartbroken by the suffering going on continuously around the world? If you are like me, I suspect you are more concerned with your car’s transmission failing or computer problems than the Hmong begging for someone to care as they hide from their Communist government in Laotian jungles because they helped America in the Vietnam War. I didn’t even KNOW about this until the last month or so … much less care for them. Similarly, there are hurting and suffering people throughout the world. Sometimes we hear a brief report of it in passing or read a story off the AP wire reports, but rarely are we truly affected by human suffering in the world. The Middle Eastern perspective is different. They see fellow Arabs hurting, in need of medical services and being killed. And not many outsiders who seem to care. They’ve seen so many conflicts in their short lifetimes, I’ve learned they cynically wish each other “Happy New War” when yet another fight comes to the region.They really wish Arab blood were not “so cheap” to the rest of the world. Do we really think of them that way?

In my introductory paragraph I stated how normal Samer was. After reading the lessons I’ve learned from him, I hope you see that for yourself. Basically we are so much like the people in the Middle East. Sure we have cultural and religious differences, but in real human standards, we are much more alike than we are different. I think most people in America want to be fairly represented. We don’t want the most wacko person being the one people remember when they think of a group we belong to. Additionally, we want to be understood or, at least, respected for our reasons even if they are difficult for most to fully understand. And whether we admit it or not, deep down we all want someone to care for us and value us. Perhaps I will be in the minority for this, but I want to be a person who values people. After seeing how Jesus looked on the crowd with compassion, I have prayed for God to give me a heart that sees people not with disgust for their annoying driving habits or hateful rhetoric or abuse of the welfare system. I want to look at all people and see the worth that they have to God. And I want to love them so that one day when I die, they can honestly say, “Today we lost a friend who loved us.”

I pray I can be that kind of person.


i think this is an amazing purpose for a blog. i dont like the word( i feel it genralizes everyone the same…syria, lebanon, palistine, iraq, ect…are each very different and unique, with each own culture to be represented.
its kind of like saying canada, usa and mexico are all the same.
but anyways..thought i’d just throw that out there. i think u are both amazing people for taking such a awesome approach to a friendship

Thank you, Angie. I appreciate your kind comment.

Very well said! It’s hard these days to fiind an American as objective as you, Susanne. Yet I agree with Angie about the word “Arabs” ..it’s huge a generalization…probably the only thing that is common among Arabs is that they speak Arabic.
This seems a very promising blog.
And for Samer I have to say…you make us proud…I wish you both the best.

Maha Noor Elahi

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